The best (and worst) boba shops in Berkeley

Vivian Roan /Staff

Boba is love, boba is life. We know what’s up. Fear not, incoming freshmen, for the boba gods — aka two of our writers — have blessed you with this guide to the best boba in Berkeley.

  1. Sharetea

Sharetea takes the cake for the best boba. It has it all: refreshing and tasty fruity green tea, delicious milk tea, and sweet pearls.

Atira Nair: Sharetea’s fruit green teas are the best and my go-to drink. The only drawback is the high price. At $4.75 (with pearls), it’s pricier than other stores, but Sharetea uses big cups, which results in customers getting almost double the boba. In my view, it’s well worth the price.

Pooja Bale: I personally enjoy milk teas rather than fruit ones, and Sharetea still meets all my requirements. I always get the Oreo milk tea, which tastes just as good as it sounds. Sharetea really wins because of its pearls. Much too often, boba places don’t cook their pearls enough or sweeten them sufficiently, but Sharetea doesn’t fall into that. They’re soft, chewy and sweet: the holy trinity.

  1. Plentea

With a limited menu and a minimalistic, yet elegant design, Plentea offers well-made and flavorful boba. The store’s unique service of selling boba in glass bottles instead of plastic cups makes it environmentally conscious, too, as you can bring these bottles back to get a discount on your next drink.

AN: A drink that I’ve never come across before is their honey citrus green tea (with candied citrus peels), which ended up being a nice blend of sweet and fresh flavors.

PB: I tried the same tea and I absolutely loved it. The tea was sharp and sweet and the citrus peels were a great touch. The pearls were a little too hard for my taste and not very sweet, despite being freshly made. You win some, you lose some.

  1. Purple Kow

The fruity flavors found here are refreshing and tasty, but make sure to get 80 percent sugar or higher unless you prefer a bit of a bitter flavor.

AN: I recommend trying the Purple Kow milk tea because it was very flavorful and refreshing. The cups, which are small, but really wide, are kind of annoying, though, because as someone with small hands, I had trouble holding it. They do, however, offer other cup sizes so if you can dish out a few extra quarters, it won’t really be an issue.

PB: Purple Kow is right by the Downtown Berkeley BART station and campus, so you basically have no excuse not to go there. I think their cups are super cute and they give you more pearls than most places, so plus-plus.

  1. U Cha

The store is a little small and cramped, but the decor is very nice, with tables and seats right along the window so you can watch the city life while enjoying your tea!

AN: Because of its reputation, I decided to try it — and hated it. The first time I went, I ordered a peach black tea with 50 percent sugar and the tea was extremely bitter and had very little peach flavor. I came back once to try one of my usual favorites: a passion fruit green tea with 100 percent sugar and despite the extra sugar, it was still bitter. The passion fruit flavor was barely there, but I did enjoy the pearls which were chewy and sweet.

PB: I didn’t think the tea was that bad, but it wasn’t great either. I tried the rose milk tea, which had a decent rose flavor but was not as strong as I hoped it to be. I made sure to get 100 percent sugar but it still wasn’t as sweet as I liked it to be, either. It was pretty much a watered-down version of good milk tea. The pearls were pretty good, not sweet but chewy and soft.

  1. Quickly

Depending on what day you go, you could end up with a mildly tasty drink or a subpar and watery tea. True to its name, students can pop in, order, and get the tea pretty quickly.

AN: The huge variety of options with shockingly low prices is impressive, but the milk tea is underwhelming. Even with a flavor such as passion fruit milk tea, you end up with a watery drink with barely a hint of passion fruit. The pearls themselves were too soft and weirdly shaped, which resulted in it not being satisfying. While the boba here isn’t exactly terrible, it isn’t good either. I suggest not going here unless you’re really, really low on cash.

PB: Quickly has been around for quite a while, making them veteran boba makers. But this is one store that I think did not get better with age. The milk tea is mediocre at best, but it’s not too bad.

Contact Pooja Bale and Atira Nair at [email protected].